Hundreds of Youth to Be Left Without Services
While every one of us has felt the effects of the Great Recession, none feel those effects more than the youth in our communities and the organizations that support them. PSKS (Peace for the Streets by Kids from the Streets) is one such organization that finds itself unable to weather the storm.
Founded in 1995 by a school teacher and her homeless students, PSKS has been a unique operator in the world of homeless youth community resources. One of the first youth services to include the at-risk kids in the operation of the organization, encouraging them to speak up, get involved, and even engage in the legislative process that affects access to services, their successful bottom-up model has been replicated by other nonprofits. In addition, PSKS helps those that other centers turn away as they welcome the children and pets of those that seek their services. Others that visit PSKS have been excluded from mainstream services due to mental illness or addiction and will have nowhere to turn if immediate funding cannot be found to keep the organization open.
While this unique youth service center opens its doors to many that other centers do not, they do have one requirement; the kids must participate in the community. The list of successes from PSKS programs and participation over the last eighteen years is long and includes legislative change such as the overturning of the Teen Dance Ordinance, community outreach and mediation such as the youth-oriented forums referred to as the Donut Dialogues which assist Seattle Police Department in improving their training practices, and empowerment through education and training programs such as RISK (Reinventing Steps to Knowledge) and LEAP (Lasting Employment Advancement Program). A more complete list of program offerings can be found at www.psks.org. PSKS youth have been featured in documentaries including the Conjunction Arts film Endurance (http://www.mccallumtarry.com/
Should PSKS have to close, hundreds of at-risk youth that have been rejected from their homes and other support programs will be displaced into the community with no assistance. Because of their policy of wide acceptance PSKS is ineligible for many fund sources that are available to other organizations. Operating on a shoe-string budget, only 25% of the PSKS budget is used for administrative costs.
Cody, a participant and LEAP Intern of PSKS who is currently homeless with his pet companion Sampson states “I feel the loss of PSKS in this community would be extremely detrimental to me because of my complex mental illness and that this is the only organization in Seattle that allows my dog inside while I access services and has been influential in the life choices I made. PSKS helped guide me through rough waters to take action in my community where my voice was more effective at communicating my dissent to the system with a positive response. With the loss of PSKS and the tools and resources they provide, it will set back my transition out of homelessness exponentially.”
Yolanda, a young musician who identifies as a queer person of color states, “People consider PSKS as a drop in center to just come in for food and get their basic needs met. I first came into contact with PSKS when I met the (CHCM) Capitol Hill Case Manager Fatima at Lambert House, one of PSKS’ partner sites, and she was excited about my musical ability and encouraged me to come to PSKS to get enrolled in their programs to access services as she knew my housing was unsettled. When I first walked into the door it was like nothing I have ever seen before. The first greeting was from a bunch of dogs which was shocking and surprising. With the loss of PSKS I will lose a caring teacher, Olivia, and a dedicated Case Manager, David, who are both encouraging and supportive, and without them will be a severe loss to the Capitol Hill Community and, personally, a safe place where I don’t feel threaten or harassed for being a queer person of color. This environment is self-governed and people are held accountable for their actions.”
The PSKS community has rallied to raise funds and will be holding an emergency fundraiser on Friday October 12th from 5-9pm hosted by the kids and volunteers featuring music, poetry reading, bake sale, and a silent art auction. The RSVP list includes everyone from former PSKS participants to Seattle City Council Member Sally Bagshaw. For PSKS to keep its doors open it will need significant funding for payment of outstanding obligations and for basic operational expenses. This will enable the dedicated staff and volunteers to be able to continue to provide these valuable services in their community. With the loss of PSKS there will be a large displacement of homeless youth with nowhere to turn. Donations can also be made via the website at www.psks.org.
PSKS (Peace for the Streets by Kids on the Streets) exists to support at-risk youth and young adults to become empowered to lead positive and self-sufficient lives. Their philosophy and practice of inclusion has allowed PSKS to develop low access barriers to engage young people who are at risk of falling through gaps in community services.
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To schedule an interview, visit the center, or make a donation please contact:
Peace for the Streets by Kids on the Streets
Elaine Simons, Executive Director & Co-Founder
1814 Summit Ave
Seattle, WA 98122